Video: Billy Graham’s Crusade

updated 6/27/2005 5:06:09 PM ET 2005-06-27T21:06:09

In a blistering heat, an estimated 230,000 thousand turned out over the weekend to see the Rev. Billy Graham in what is expected to be his final appearance in New York City.  The revival mission was billed as his "Final Crusade" tour but the Reverend Graham left open the possibility of a future return.  "We hope to come back again someday," he told New Yorkers, then perhaps more seriously noted he had told journalists asking if this is the end, "never say never."

Before Graham stepped up to the podium to preach the word of the Gospel, he sat down with MSNBC's Joe Scarborough to discuss prevailing issues over war and religion, including the attacks of 9/11.

Below is a transcript of the interview.  Click on the link above to watch the video clip.

SCARBOROUGH: Why New York?  Why now? 

GRAHAM:  I think we came to New York because we were invited by some clergy, especially after 9/11.  My son, Franklin, was up here for a long time helping and setting up an organization to answer questions, to give coffee and doughnuts and help in every way he could. 

And he talked to ministers.  And every one of them said, it‘s time for your father to come back to New York.  And they organized.  And here we are. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, New York obviously holds a place dear to your heart. 

GRAHAM:  That‘s right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  People are still talking about when you were in Madison Square Garden in the 1950s.  And I don‘t think America had ever seen anything like the crusade back in the ‘50s. 

Talk about New York.  People think it‘s the most secular city in America, and yet...

GRAHAM:  No, it‘s a religious city. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You think it‘s a religious city. 

GRAHAM:  There are many religions here. 

New York is also a city of neighborhoods.  Everybody here belongs to their own neighborhood.  And so, you don‘t have the differences as united as they normally would be in a smaller city.  And I found out years ago that you have to speak to New Yorkers within their own setting of where they were, and their ethnic background, their language background, their cultural background. 

And the Gospel speaks to all of them.  And I‘ve been to most of the countries that are here.  And I‘ve known a little bit about them and where they came from.  And I know that, when the Gospel is proclaimed, that people will respond.  And they do, always. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You talk about speaking to New Yorkers. 

I remember back -- I guess it was the ‘80s.  You kept talking about going to the Soviet Union.  And, as I mentioned to you before, you‘re like the pope to people like me, to my family.


SCARBOROUGH:  But, at that point, I was saying, why is he going to the Soviet Union?  Why is he talking to our enemies?  But unlike so many other pastors and so many other preachers we see on TV, you really started divorcing yourself from politics a long time ago.  Why? 

GRAHAM:  Well, I was invited to the Soviet Union to address a peace conference, which everybody -- almost everybody was against.  The newspapers were against it, editorials. 

And I remember, the Sunday before I went, Vice President Bush invited me to their home for a lunch, because we‘d been close friends for many years.  And he said during the lunch, he said, you know, I don‘t think the Reagans are busy today.  I‘ll just call them and see if they‘ll come over and have lunch.  And they did. 

And Brent Sulzberger of 'The New York Times,' also, and his family came.  And we had a marvelous time.  And Ronald Reagan, the president, took me aside.  And he said, 'Billy,' he said, 'I know you‘re going to go this week to the Soviet Union.'  He said, 'I want you to know we‘ll be praying for you every mile of the way.  And that gave me great encouragement.' 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you about politics and preachers, because we‘ve seen over the past 20, 30 years a lot of preachers focusing as much on the politics of this Earth as focusing on the cross, delivering the message of Jesus Christ, not only to believers, but to nonbelievers. 

Do you think all this focus on electoral politics has maybe taken some of their eyes off of the cross, off the ministry of Jesus Christ? 

GRAHAM:  I don‘t want to say that I disagree with them, because I don‘t in a way.  But that‘s not my calling. 

My calling is the Gospel, the fact that Christ did die for us, and that he rose again.  And we need to repent of our sins and receive him by faith.  That‘s the message God has called me to deliver. 

And I think that these other ministers are going down different paths and the direction I took for years in my earlier ministry.  And I became friends of people who thought that was a good thing. 


You know, when I was growing up, my grandmother, any time I had a question, she‘d go, 'Read this column by Billy Graham, or, read this book by Billy Graham.'

GRAHAM:  Oh, my.

SCARBOROUGH:  And we always said, my grandmother had a direct line to God.  I think you may have actually helped her out with that. 

What do you say to devoted Christians, post-9/11, that want to serve in the Marines or the Army, and understand that this war on terror may require them to go overseas and kill people?  Even though I support this war, and I guess a lot of evangelicals, really, support this war, there‘s still that conflict.  How do we ever sort through that?

SCARBOROUGH:  the words of Jesus Christ...

GRAHAM:  I said, in this short time, I couldn‘t answer all that. 

That‘s a longer story. 


GRAHAM:  But I believe that there‘s a difference.  If you look up the Greek words about murder and killing, it is totally different. 

In the Ten Commandments, it says, thou shalt not murder, not kill. 


GRAHAM:  But there are times we have to defend ourselves.  I think the scriptures are very clear that we are to defend ourselves if we‘re attacked.

On 9/11, we were attacked.  And I think that we have responded to that attack.  And I‘m praying we can find a way out of the situation now. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And it‘s a difficult, difficult situation. 

I was reading today, before I knew I was going to be talking to you, that the Gallup poll every year asks Americans, who are the top 10 most important or most admired people?  Forty-seven out of 50 years, Billy Graham has been on the list. 

GRAHAM:  Oh, my.  I think somebody made a mistake.

SCARBOROUGH:  Is that not remarkable?  No, I don‘t think anybody made a mistake. 

What accounts for that?  And, obviously, I know you‘re a very humble man.  You say that people have misjudged you, that you‘re a sinner; you‘re a human.  But why do you think that is? 

GRAHAM: I don‘t know.  I‘ll ask the lord some day. 

I told Mr. Gallup one day when I met him, his son, I said, I‘m sure that there‘s some mistakes made in the way you‘re taking that poll. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But it is.  It is a remarkable thing.  What I think about Paul talking about running the race, and, at the end saying, race, well done. 

GRAHAM:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, this may be your last crusade.  You‘re about to go through the finish line.  Assess your ministry. 

GRAHAM:  I‘m ready to go.  I hope the lord calls me soon.

But I want to stay and be with my wife.  And I love her very much.  She‘s an invalid and cannot be here for these meetings.  And I miss her very much.  And I want to be at her side as long as she lives. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Last question.  And it relates to that. 

I know a lot of men and women of faith that I grew up with in the church, loving them, respecting them, being taught by them, that, as they get near the end of their lives and as they start to break down physically and emotionally, and they feel the weight of the years on them, it‘s almost like that scene, Christ‘s last words on the cross, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  What do you say to those people out there that say, this is no way to end my life, to be separated from my wife, to be separated from my loved ones, to be in constant pain?  What do you say to them? 

GRAHAM:  You know, I don‘t have answers to all those questions.

But I do know that, when Jesus said, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” at that moment, God had laid on him the sins of the world.  And God cannot look upon sin.  So, he turned away for a short time. 


GRAHAM:  And during that period of time, Jesus actually went to hell for us and took the suffering that we deserve on that cross.  And that‘s why the cross is so important. 

Watch 'Scarborough Country' each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET on MSNBC.


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